Hypnotic marks a slight departure for director Robert Rodriguez, veering away from his signature gritty grindhouse style, yet manages to retain his genre roots by delving into the realm of hard-boiled, sci-fi thrillers. While the film treads unfamiliar territory for Rodriguez, it remains an intriguing concept that holds a lot of promise for B-movie thrills and spills.
The story revolves around Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck), a detective hell bent on locating his young daughter, who was abducted right from under his nose. When a photograph of his daughter emerges amidst an intricately orchestrated heist, it leads Rourke to a mysterious psychic named Diana (Alice Braga). She reveals the existence of “hypnotics” – individuals who can manipulate someone’s perception of reality, and bend it to their will. As he delves deeper into this world, Rourke clashes with a powerful and sinister hypnotic named Dellrayne (William Fichtner), who may be key to finding his daughter.
The hypnosis gimmick here allows Rodriguez to play around with some plot twists and turns as the question of what’s real and what isn’t becomes increasingly difficult to answer. It’s also a device that’s ripe for exploring visually, but the film feels underwhelming in that respect. It leans far too heavily on imagery that feels shamelessly cribbed from Inception, going back to the same shot of a city contorting into the sky all too frequently. It’s a shame given the set-up that there weren’t more imaginative set pieces.
With its dusty sci-fi sheen and goofy but intriguing premise, Hypnotic feels like a largely forgettable thriller ripped straight from the late ‘90s. It’s not hard to imagine a John Travolta or a Nicolas Cage starring in this during that era. It actually wouldn’t look out of place alongside either man’s more recent straight-streaming efforts either, if not for the presence of Affleck in the leading role. His involvement is surely what garnered the film a cinematic release and his performance anchors the otherwise rote film. He brings a sense of gravitas to the role, managing to inject just enough emotional depth into his character’s journey to keep things mildly engaging.
Hypnotic‘s attempt to blend gritty elements with a sci-fi thriller backdrop is commendable, showcasing Robert Rodriguez’s willingness to explore new territory. But ultimately, the film falls short of its potential, resulting in a mediocre mystery thriller that fails to leave a lasting impression.